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AJI, Press Council question proposal to regulate fines, sanctions for media companies

Jakarta Post - June 12, 2020

Nina Loasana, Jakarta – The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Press Council have questioned proposed revisions to the Press Law under the omnibus bill on job creation.

The AJI and Press Council said they were opposed to certain revisions that were currently under proposal for the bill, including fines and administrative sanctions for press companies.

In a House of Representatives Legislation Body (Baleg) meeting on Thursday, AJI chairman Abdul Manan said that there was no urgency to impose larger fines for press companies.

"What is the urgency of increasing fines up to 400 percent? What does the government want? Fines and sanctions should be handed out as a way to educate the press, not to make them bankrupt," he said.

One of the laws that the bill seeks to amend is Article 18 of Law No. 40/1999 on the press, which would increase fines for anyone who hinders the ability of the press to freely seek, obtain or disseminate information. It would also fine press companies that do not adhere to religious norms, morality or the presumption of innocence in reporting – or those that do not serve the right of reply.

According to the omnibus bill, any violation of the provision will lead to a fine of up to Rp 2 billion (US$141,920), an increase four times greater than the previous fine of Rp 500,000.

Abdul said press companies would struggle to pay such a large amount as the minimum authorized amount of capital to start a press company as stipulated by law was only Rp 50 million.

"We could imagine if such [small] companies are required to pay such a huge amount of fines. It seems like the fine is not aimed to educate but to annihilate [press companies]," he said.

Abdul also expressed concerns over giving the government the authority to impose administrative sanctions on press companies, saying it would contradict the "self-regulatory" principle of press laws.

"In the new order regime era, the government imposed administrative sanctions for press companies by revoking their business permits, making it so that they were unable to print. [...] So returning the authority to impose sanctions to the government is a drawback to our press laws. It would also be hard to ensure that the government regulations fall in line with the needs and aspirations of the press," he said.

The proposed revisions to Article 18 would also impose administrative sanctions on any media company that failed to obtain proper legal documents or to publicly list its address and the people in charge of the organization.

The specific administrative sanctions are to be outlined in subsequent government regulations (PPs). Under prevailing regulations, such a violation carries a potential Rp 100 million fine.

Head of the Press Council Agung Dharmajaya said the government did not involve the press in constructing the proposed revisions. He also suggested that the House drop the revisions.

"We suggested that the House drop any proposed revisions in the omnibus bill on job creation, which would regulate the press," Agung said.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/06/11/aji-press-council-question-proposal-to-regulate-fines-sanctions-for-media-companies.html